Monday, November 19, 2012

Why Would You Become a Teacher?

 I have spent a great deal of the past year speaking to future teachers and education students in higher education. Honestly, these are my favorite groups to speak with. They are so full of hope and potential and have yet to become weighted down with the realities of the teaching profession. However, as I reflect on these experiences I wonder why anyone goes into our profession anymore. There are so many things that teachers are dealing with right now that I truly question if I would suggest that anyone pursue teaching as a career. In thinking about talking to these future teachers, here are a few things maybe I should give them a heads up on and really ask them why they would want to become a teacher.
  • You will be villainized by your neighbors in the community that you serve when you are part of a union and the union goes on strike for better pay and better benefits.
  • You will inevitably work for an administrator that has lost touch with the classroom. These administrators will observe you and evaluate you and tell you how to teach even though they themselves do not know how to be an effective teacher. You will see that exact same administrator fire and release good teachers around you because they don't know what good teaching looks like.
  • You will turn on the news and never see a positive story about a teacher but instead be bombarded with negative images and stories about ignorant and misguided teachers that are telling the story for you and your fellow teachers.
  • You will be overwhelmed with initiatives that are not new but instead are just a continual recycling of old ideas in new packages so somebody other than a teacher can make big money on them.
  • You'll be told your sole value as a teacher is determined by students’ bubble sheet tests that you yourself have no value in and do not teach to.
  • You will be forced to teach a curriculum that is miles upon miles wide but barely scratches the surface of any real depth.
  • You will listen and watch politicians fill your head with false promises about how they will make education better but then just perpetuate the cycle of bad policies and underfunded initiatives.
  • You will watch as nearly one quarter of all new teachers quit or leave the profession within the first couple of years of their career.
  • You will constantly be told how to do your job by people that have never done your job. Whether it’s a politician or a businessman, they will all claim to know school because they went to school and none of them will hesitate to tell you how school should be.
  • You will watch as vital programs that help a child expand their mind beyond the core curriculum are cut or dismantled.
  • You will teach in a building alongside amazing teachers. You will also teach alongside terrible teachers that will stay in a classroom because administrators don't want to do the work to get rid of them but will rather shuffle them to another building.
  • You will invest hours upon hours of your life into a child who won't care, won't change and ultimately drop out of school.
  • You will work for a school district that only cares about test scores. The well-being of the whole child will be secondary to data driven results of the student.
  • You will sit through meetings upon meetings, in-services and professional development opportunities that have no relevance, no connection and no value to you in the classroom.
  • You will constantly have to defend your decision to become “just a teacher” to your family and friends.
Yet in spite of all of this, if you truly love what you do it will be worth it. Every single thing on this list is irrelevant if you are passionate about teaching. Those special moments when you inspire a colleague or motivate a kid will be worth all of this and more. I do encourage people who truly want to matter in this world to join the ranks of teachers and help change lives, touch the future and all of those other teacher cliches that ring true. :)  
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